Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who is running for president in 2020, said the Senate was “literally the least diverse place” he’d ever seen when he joined in 2013.
“When I came to the United States Senate, it was literally the least diverse place I had ever seen,” Booker, who is Black, said Tuesday at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s conference in Washington, D.C. Fellow Democratic candidates Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg also spoke at the event.
“And I’m not joking,” Booker added. “I remember one of my first times working late, and when I went to leave, there was a line of people coming in to clean the Senate that were all Black and brown people.” He also noted the lack of diversity among congressional staffers.
Booker, who is on the Senate Judiciary Committee, was elected and joined the Senate in 2013. Raised in New Jersey, Booker was mayor of Newark from 2006 until his Senate election. He previously attended Stanford University, Oxford University and Yale Law School.
When Booker joined the then-113th Congress, just six of 100 senators belonged to a racial or ethnic minority group, according to Pew Research.
Today, Congress is still overwhelmingly white and male. Despite the current 116th Congress being the most diverse ever ― thanks to historic wins for gender and racial diversity primarily in the House ― only nine of 100 senators are nonwhite, per Pew.
That’s less than 10% of the Senate ― while people of color make up nearly 40% of the total U.S. population.
“I’m here to put the pressure on you,” Booker said, apparently addressing the young people at the event from CHCI, a nonpartisan group that gives leadership opportunities to Latinx youth. “We are at a point in the nation where the people that are in the room when it happens are not reflecting the rich diversity of our country.”
“Remember that when you got a seat at the table, your job is not to be the only one or the first one,” Booker added. “Your job is to make sure you’re not the last one.”